Foreign diplomats have stacked up £111million in motoring charges, with the majority being unpaid Congestion Zone fees, a new investigation shows.

Figures provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office revealed which embassies have the highest outstanding charges and the US tops the list with almost £12million.

Incredibly, nearly £110million of this is for unpaid Congestion Zone use dating back to its introduction in 2003.

However, a stipulation in the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations means Britain is unlikely to see a penny of the money.

What do foreign embassies owe in motoring charges and fines? Under the controversial 1961 Vienna Convention, diplomats are immune from paying motoring fines in their host country. Charges racked up by Qatar diplomats, for instance, amount to £68,210

What do foreign embassies owe in motoring charges and fines? Under the controversial 1961 Vienna Convention, diplomats are immune from paying motoring fines in their host country. Charges racked up by Qatar diplomats, for instance, amount to £68,210

Hippo Leasing commandeered the staggering figures from the FCO as part of a Freedom of Information request.

The data is for unpaid congestion zone charges and parking penalty charge notices (PCNs) only. 

Outstanding congestion charges go back to 2003 when they were first introduced while most parking PCNs go back as far as 2013. 

The vast majority of money owed is for the former, amounting to a whopping £109,989,245.

To put this figure into context, latest figures show that Transport for London made £155.9million from congestion charge payments and fines last year. 

It means that unpaid embassy fines represent significant lost revenue for TfL which, by law, has to re-invest earnings into London transport networks in line with the Mayor’s Transport Strategy.

And the chances of the UK collecting these outstanding payments are slim, due to a long-standing UN agreement. 

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Under the controversial 1961 Vienna Convention, diplomats are immune from prosecution in their host country. 

This means they legally don’t have to pay motoring fines, despite TfL pursuing embassies for payment. 

The American Embassy is the worst offender, racking up £11,929,685 in fines dating back 15 years.

Incredibly, £11,925,920 of these are for congestion charge zone fees.  

FOREIGN EMBASSIES THAT OWE THE MOST MOTORING FINES & CHARGES 
Country Congestion Charge owed (£) Parking Fines owed (£) Total owed (£)
1 United States (American Embassy) 11,925,920 3,765 11,929,685
2 Japan (Embassy of Japan) 8,021,190 2,195 8,023,385
3 Nigeria (High Commission for the Federal Republic of Nigeria) 6,724,405 272,740 6,997,145
4 Russia (Embassy of the Russian Federation) 5,653,955 8,952 5,662,907
5 India (Office of the High Commissioner for India) 5,394,580 5,490 5,400,070
6 China (Embassy of the People’s Republic of China) 4,337,295 6,715 4,344,010
7 Germany (Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany) 4,288,680 5,790 4,294,470
8 Poland (Embassy of the Republic of Poland) 4,065,250 2,655 4,067,905
9 Ghana (High Commission for the Republic of Ghana) 3,655,695 7,180 3,662,875
10 Sudan (Embassy of the Republic of the Sudan) 3,160,730 48,824 3,209,554
Source: HippoLeasing 
The US Embassy owes the UK the most, racking up almost £12million in motoring charges

Japan is among the worst offenders, will diplomats accruing over £8million in fines

The US Embassy (left) owes the UK the most, racking up almost £12million in motoring charges. Japan is among the worst offenders, will diplomats accruing over £8million in fines

The Russian Embassy hasn't paid £5.6million it owes in Congestion Zone charges and parking fines

The Russian Embassy hasn’t paid £5.6million it owes in Congestion Zone charges and parking fines

Japan, Nigeria, Russia and India complete the top five with the highest unpaid motoring bills – all of them have accrued debts of over £5million. 

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The High Commission for the Federal Republic of Nigeria owes the highest amount in unpaid parking fines, totaling £272,740. 

Tom Preston, managing director of Hippo Leasing, said the amount of unpaid fines are likely to spiral from this year, with the introduction of the Ultra Low Emission Zone in the capital.

‘While some argue diplomatic immunity is an outdated principle and open to exploitation, foreign officials remain under no legal obligation to pay their motoring fines,’ Preston said.

‘Total debts are only set to increase following the introduction of the Ultra Low Emission Zone in April, designed to cut traffic further and help clean up the dangerously polluted air in London. 

‘As well as looking at the economic impact of foreign diplomats driving in the Capital, it’s important to consider the environmental and public health costs too.’ 

A black BMW 7 Series parked outside the Latvian embassy in London

A black BMW 7 Series parked outside the Latvian embassy in London

But while diplomatic immunity means embassies don’t have to cough up, some are still paying them out of goodwill.

According to the FCO data, diplomats of three UK embassies (Central African Republic, New Zealand and Paraguay) owe absolutely nothing, having consistently settled their accrued debts over the years.

Hippo Leasing has created a map infographic to display which nations owe what. 

FOREIGN EMBASSIES THAT OWE THE LEAST MOTORING FINES & CHARGES 
Country Congestion Charge owed (£) Parking Fines owed (£) Total owed (£)
1 Central African Republic (Embassy of the Central African Republic)
2 New Zealand (New Zealand High Commission)
3 Paraguay (Embassy of the Republic of Paraguay)
4 Peru (Embassy of Peru) 40 40
5 Montenegro (Embassy of Montenegro) 65 65
6 Netherlands (Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands) 65 65
7 Venezuela (Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela) 65 65
8 Costa Rica (Embassy of Costa Rica) 130 130
9 Nepal (Embassy of Nepal) 130 130
10 Norway (Royal Norwegian Embassy) 130 130
Source: HippoLeasing   
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